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Review of Russian 'hacking' is good even if motives behind it aren't

A couple kisses in front of graffiti showing Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and President-elect Donald Trump doing the same thing. But did Putin really help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton? (AP photo)
A couple kisses in front of graffiti showing Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and President-elect Donald Trump doing the same thing. But did Putin really help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton? (AP photo)
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Monday, December 12, 2016 09:01 pm
President-elect Donald Trump has had good reason to mock the experts before, most notably journalists who today imply so-called "fake news" enabled his victory over Hillary Clinton but about a month ago were reporting how he would lose in a landslide. But even if he's ultimately proved right, nothing good can come of Trump's very public rejection of a CIA report inferring Russian involvement on his behalf in the Nov. 8 election. Are Trump's political opponents trying to exploit that report to their own advantage? Of course. The alleged "bromance" between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin is even now being used to discredit Trump's apparent secretary of state choice, ExxonMobile CEO Rex Tillerson, because of the oil executive's business relationship with Putin.

But facts are facts, and Trump should not be so quick to dismiss the possibility of Russian tampering as "ridiculous" even before those facts are fully known.

Claims that Russians or anybody else somehow "hacked" the election results are indeed ridiculous because, as I noted back in September, electronic voting machines are not linked on the internet. In other words, any manipulation of results would have to happen on-site, not from Moscow, on a machine-by-machine basis. But there is plenty of reason to suspect skullduggery nevertheless.

Back in August, you may recall, the Department of Homeland Security warned that voter-registration databases in Illinois and Arizona — which are on the web and thus susceptible to hackers — may have been penetrated and altered by Russians. And, of course, some suspected the Russians were also behind the Democratic e-mails released by WikiLeaks just prior to the election, which exposed rampant misbehavior within the Clinton campaign and some of its allies in the press. No such damaging emails about Trump were revealed, although WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has denied the Russian government was the source of hacked emails from John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, who is now using the alleged Russian plot to undermine Trump's legitimacy.

 It is wrong, and sour-grapism of the worst sort, to suggest that any of this invalidates Trump's victory. He won fair and square, not because of undercover foreign allies but because he tapped in to unrest neither Clinton nor his Republican challengers recognized or sought to address. But as president Trump will have to rely on his intelligence agencies, and publicly ridiculing them even before taking office could create a lack of trust that could undermine his administration and endanger the country.

Trump should indeed try to work with Putin when possible. He has no choice. But Putin is indeed a thug, and has fooled people before. President George W. Bush gazed into his eyes and professed to see his soul. President Obama assured Putin he would have more "flexibility" to work with Russia in his second term. Hillary Clinton infamously hit the "reset" button with the Kremlin.

But naivete, partisanship and hypocrisy are no substitute for facts, and it does not bode well that Trump seems uninterested in them. Thankfully, Congress — including such Republicans as Sens. John McCain and Lindsay Graham — does not share that resistance and is poised to investigate.

President Obama has openly tried to influence foreign elections before, and that's bad. But a congressional inquiry will be good, because Americans need to know if foreign dictators are secretly trying to do the same thing. Their new president should be no less interested.

It's that time again

If you want to see some cool pictures of Fort Wayne Christmases gone by from The News-Sentinel's archives, tune in to Steve Shine's annual "Holiday Movie Marathon" Christmas Day. I'll be on with Shine during breaks near the end of "The Dog Who Saved The Holidays," which airs between 5  p.m. and 7 p.m., and the beginning of the "Magnificent Mile Lights Festival," which follows.

The marathon will air 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on MyTV Fort Wayne, Channel 21.3 (over the air), Comcast Channel 18, Frontier/Fios Channel 9, Mediacom Channel 10 and DirectTV Channel 34.

 This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Kevin Leininger at kleininger@news-sentinel.com or call him at 461-8355.



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